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November 28, 2011

Expect prospects to roll into Columbus now

MORE OSU: BuckeyeGrove.com coverage

Initial reactions have been overwhelmingly positive from prospects committed to Ohio State concerning the school's hiring of Urban Meyer as its 24th head football coach.

Six of the prospects on Ohio State's class of 2012 list committed to the program when Jim Tressel was still the head coach, and the rest did so understanding that there was a strong likelihood interim head coach Luke Fickell would not be leading the team past the 2011 season.

Most coaching changes shake up the recruiting foundation of the current class, but the Meyer hire at Ohio State should have a stabilizing effect on the Buckeyes' 2012 class. The resignation of Tressel in May, the shadow of NCAA investigations over the program and the uncertainty of who would lead the program going forward has all contributed to a difficult recruiting landscape for Fickell and his staff.

With Meyer in place, though, clarity has been added to the future of Ohio State football. The rumors of Meyer being in line to take over the program have been around since early in the fall, and recruits seem to be exhaling a collective sigh of relief that a proven winner has taken the reins in Columbus. The program's top ranked commitment in the 2012 class, Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft four-star Adolphus Washington, described his feelings Monday morning upon hearing the news.

"I'm very excited about it and I'm glad he accepted. I can't wait to meet him," Washington said.

Other Ohio State commitments have echoed Washington's statements. The Buckeyes have a known name, and a two-time national championship winner ready to take over the program, and the program finally has stability after months of turmoil.

"I'm very excited to have an opportunity to play for coach Urban Meyer," said Upper Arlington (Ohio) wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos. "He's had success at Florida and I see it transferring over to Ohio State simply because he's a winner."

"I'm excited," Pickerington (Ohio) North offensive guard Pat Elflein added. "I haven't met him, but I know he is a great coach with great intensity and I love that."

"I know he will be a good leader for us and I can't wait to play for him," Cleveland (Ohio) St Ignatius tight end Blake Thomas said. "He's had great success in the past and I know that will continue at the Ohio State University."

Ohio State currently has 16 commitments in its 2012 class and the class was not expected to get much higher because of the limited number of scholarships available.

But Meyer does not have to come out of the gates hitting home runs on the recruiting trail and quickly infusing the roster with his recruits. He won his first national championship in just his second year on the job at Florida, with a roster consisting mostly of prospects brought in by his predecessor's staff.

Some of the biggest names remaining on the Buckeyes' 2012 recruiting list are offensive linemen Jordan Diamond, Alex Kozan and Nick Davidson. They are also after several safety prospects, including Dayton-area three-star Bam Bradley and Pittsburgh-area three-star Demetrious Cox.

Now that Meyer has landed in Columbus officially, though, the opportunity exists for the Buckeyes to get in on recruitments in which they were not previously contending. One name that could be interesting to watch is five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel of Indiana. The Buckeyes do have quarterback commitment Cardale Jones on their list as a holdover from the 2011 class, but Kiel's passing ability combined with some mobility would seem to be a fit for Meyer's spread offense.

"From a national perspective it doesn't get any bigger than this," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell noted. "The biggest name in college football coaching circles heading to a program like Ohio State with such a brand name is a recipe for instant success in recruiting and the buzz from recruits regarding the Buckeyes will increase exponentially especially in the Southeast and Florida. If there's such a thing as a grand slam hire in college football for recruiting, this is it."

Meyer should have few issues finishing out the 2012 class with a few big name additions. Long term, though, the key will be continuing to bring the nation's top recruits to Columbus and few coaches across the country have recruited the elite athletes with as much passion as Meyer.

"He is as aggressive of a recruiter as I have ever seen," said Rivals.com West Coast analyst Adam Gorney, who covered Meyer's recruiting for several years at Florida. "He will go after every single kid he wants, no matter where they are in the country. He's going to put together a staff that are all good recruiters and understand that recruiting is what it's all about."

Ohio State has built top recruiting classes for decades by building the base of their classes with in-state talent. Ohio is the most talent-rich state in the Midwest, and one of the top five talent producing states in the country. Meyer was born in the state, attended high school and college in-state and still has great connections in the program's backyard. As much as any potential coaching candidate out there, Meyer should be able to appeal to the Buckeyes' base and continue keeping top in-state talent at home.

But Meyer also has strong connections in other parts of the country, particularly the southeast where he recently turned Florida into a recruiting juggernaut during his six-year tenure with the program. Ohio State had been dipping into the Sunshine State more and more during Jim Tressel's tenure, and all signs point to the Buckeye's presence increasing in that region under Meyer.

"Meyer's tenure at Florida produced great results and led to an entire generation of young football players turning their eyes to Gainesville," Rivals.com Florida analyst Chris Nee said. "Those kids are now reaching the latter stage of their high school careers and will be some of the very prospects that will have an interest in playing for Meyer in the coming years.

"While he may have made them Gator fans, their appreciation for what his teams accomplished and how his teams were coached in Gainesville will pay off for him at his new home at Ohio State. He was a ruthless recruiter in the Sunshine State while at Florida and he won't hesitate to return to those old stomping grounds to compete for some of the nation's top athletes. I completely expect Ohio State to further increase an already active presence in Florida under Meyer's direction, and I expect a lot of success for he and his staff in luring Florida talent to the Big Ten program."

What will be interesting to watch in the coming days and weeks is who Meyer chooses to fill out his staff at Ohio State, and how those hires could further increase the Buckeyes' recruiting clout across the country. Several Ohio State commitments have told us in recent days they hope Fickell is retained because of the relationships they had with him, and there is plenty of chatter that Meyer does plan to retain Fickell.

Still, the name at the top of the coach's roster is what matters most to recruits, and with Urban Meyer as its head man, an already potent Ohio State recruiting machine has the chance to reach new heights.

Josh Helmholdt can be reached at hemy12@hotmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshHelmholdt.



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